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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Portland Soccer, June 25, 2013

At this point in the season, the Timbers are doing something they haven't done in MLS: Go into games expecting to win and doing just that, comfortably. Sunday against the Colorado Rapids they started slowly, allowing the Rapids several good chances at goal before settling down, playing the style they've played all year, and coming away with a 3-0 win.

The win may have been routine, but the goals were all very nice. First, in the 10th minute, Will Johson took a free kick and passed to Rodney Wallace, who the Rapids failed to cover. He sent a cross to Frederic Piquionne, who headed the ball in off the bottom of the crossbar to give Portland the lead. It was a nicely worked goal that started from a smart play by the Timbers captain.

Just before halftime, as the clock approached 45:00, Piquionne won a challenge for the ball and found Wallace running at goal. Wallace laid the ball off for Johnson. Watching the play in real time it seemed Johnson made a great run at the goal to beat goalkeeper Clint Irwin for a 2-0 lead. On replay it turned out Johnson had done even better, flicking the ball up to himself before volleying it in, all on the run. What looked like a good goal was a spectacular one and a highlight of the season so far.

Entering the second half with a two-goal lead allowed the Timbers to keep possession and run time off the clock a little. Colorado did manage 18 shots, but apart from the opening 10 minutes and a time in the 58th when Jack Jewsbury made a good clearance off the goal line, the Rapids were not too threatening. Portland put any doubts to rest in the 83rd, however. Substitute Ben Zemanski passed wide to Wallace, who crossed to Ryan Johnson with one touch. The striker, coming off the bench, slotted the ball home with one touch as well. It was a beautiful team goal that was the perfect cap to a win that took the Timbers to a tie for first place in the Western Conference with Real Salt Lake.

Even more encouraging was the fact that coach Caleb Porter and the players admitted the performance wasn't perfect and they are still working toward being the best they can be.

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